For close to 20 years, ETSU has been providing students with an alternative to the typical Spring Break bash experience.
The university’s Alternative Spring Breaks program offers students the chance to use Spring break to partake in a positive learning experience and to help communities in need.
According to Rachel Robertson, the program assistant for Community Service Programs, the program has recently seen an increase of interest and participation from the student body.
“The involvement, support and enthusiasm has varied over the years, but recently a new emphasis has been placed on the program with both student leadership input and administrative support,” Robertson said.
Last year’s program attracted 40 students who were divided into four separate ASB events: The Civil Rights Movement, Homelessness and Urban Poverty, Health and Urban Poverty, and Health and Youth Development.
This year, the program is expanding to five separate events with the hope of taking 57 students and seven faculty members.
“Students will be serving alongside community partner agencies in the various cities as they learn about the social justices of their particular experience and each ASB team will meet four times during the month of February for education, orientation and training,” Robertson said.
This year’s event titles are: Religious Pluralism and Diversity, Accessibility and Youth Development, Civil and Human Rights Youth Development, HIV/AIDS and Addiction Prevention/Treatment, and Disaster Recovery and Rural Poverty.
Robertson believes that programs such as ASB are immensely beneficial both to the students and the communities they serve.
“Students that participate in Alternative Breaks are provided with the opportunity to learn about current social injustices affecting our world, to look critically at the root causes of these social injustices as they evaluate the role they have in the community, and to find avenues for continued community involvement and efforts to take action locally,” Robertson said.
But these experiences don’t just impact the students.
“Last year through Alternative Breaks, we completed 5,760 hours of direct service in the communities in which we served and 240 hours of pre-trip education, orientation, and training. 62.5 percent of students reported an increased understanding of social issue addressed on their Alternative Spring Break, and 70.8 percent reported a stronger commitment to social action after having participated,” Robertson said.
Aleigha Spaulding, a 2016 ASB participant, was greatly impacted by her experiences in the program.
“The program made me more aware of myself and the people around me. It also made me want to get more involved with a service organization in my town,” Spaulding said.
Students who attend the program pay a small fee with costs ranging from $100-$200 depending on the event. However, the ASB is willing to work with students in need of financial assistance.
“We don’t want cost to be the limiting factor for any student,” Robertson said.
This year the program will be held from March 4-12. Those interested in applying or learning more about the specific events that will be offered this year can visit the ASB website at etsu.edu under the civic engagement dropdown or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.